The Message of Makeup

According to an October 2014 study by Glamour, 80 percent of women ages 18 to 40 are dissatisfied with their appearance in the mirror. Combine that dissatisfaction with whirlwind ads for so-called transformative beauty products and the line between healthy and unhealthy makeup use becomes as fine as an eyeliner pencil.

And while plenty of women swear by beauty products and refuse to leave the house without first visiting their makeup bags, the question remains: Does a woman really need to put on makeup in order to feel truly beautiful?

“Ten years ago I would have said yes,” says Kimberly Parker, PhD, a professor in health studies at Texas Woman’s University. “I think that our views and our acceptance of makeup has changed over the past couple of years because I see makeup has become a sense of an art—a creative form of expression.”

Despite the creative, artistic movement, Parker says there are still signs of women depending on makeup. “I think that it impacts your self-worth when one wears makeup to create a persona that they feel that they need to address,” she says. When makeup becomes less of an enhancement and more of a mask, however, it stops becoming a healthy way to boost confidence.

“There is a lot of pressure on women, at least in Western culture, to match a media image of attractiveness,” says Linda Rubin, PhD, a psychologist at Texas Woman’s University. “And so what you have are girls, and then young women, trying to make themselves as much like these images they see as possible because they’ve been sold this idea that that’s what you have to look like in order to be successful, in order to attract to a man, in order to be feminine, in order to be a woman.”

Weight complexion, hair, and fashion—makeup can be just the key to discovering and experiencing the coveted, and oftentimes elusive, self-acceptance. Only then can makeup escape society’s blatant abuse and ridicule so that it may be used as it is intended: not as a substitute for self-confidence, but a simple and enjoyable beauty enhancement.

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